A large percentage of Internet users in Harlan County and across the southeastern part of the state found themselves without access to the web Wednesday.
The outage interrupted work at schools, hospitals and many other businesses.
Locally, Harlan ARH staff turned to paper to keep providing services to patients that normally are processed electronically. This included such items as medical records, internal communications, all of the information with patient registration, billing and various other areas.
Mark Bell, Community and Patient Advocate for ARH, said, “This really becomes nothing more than an inconvenience. Patient care is not interrupted. Quality is not compromised. We just go to our back up plan and catch up when the systems are back online.
Harlan Community Television President Jack Hale said all of his company’s customers was affected by the outage.
“We’ve got about 4,000 customers,” said Hale. “We’ve called around and the school systems which are not affiliated with our Internet whatsoever and they’re out too. So it’s a pipeline problem between here and somewhere on AT&T’s circuit. That’s who we’ve got our circuits through.”
Harlan County Schools Technology Director David Burkhart said he was notified by the Kentucky Department of Education’s technology division of the Internet outage which affected the following school districts: Boyle County, Harlan County, Burgin Independent, Corbin Independent, Kentucky School for the Deaf, Danville Independent, Bell County, Harlan Independent, Madison County, Middlesboro Independent, Mercer County, Washington County, Whitley County, Williamsburg Independent and Lincoln County.
Harlan Community Television Vice President Mark Lawrence said earlier Wednesday that he felt the outage is likely the result of a fiber optic cable break. This does not happen often, but it has happened before, he said.
“The last time we had an incident like this occur was when a guy with a machete’ cut the fiber optic cable in half down at the Loyall turnoff,” said Lawrence. “They were working on some cable and they had left it down. He was looking for copper and he took that machete’ and peeled it open like shucking a piece of corn and he cut every piece of fiber in it. It knocked the cell phones out that time too, if I’m not mistaken.”
Hale said there is no copper in a fiber optic cable, but they do appear the same with just a visual inspection, although there are ways to tell the difference.
“If you feel of it, it’s like a feather compared to a piece of copper,” said Hale.
Hale said that while everything is working with Harlan Community Television’s service, with the fiber optic break there is no access outside of the system.
“Television services are working, it’s just our phone and Internet that are out,” said Lawrence.
Lawrence said when there is a break it could be hard to locate.
“We actually have a virtual bridge that starts here and is routed to Columbus, Ohio,” said Lawrence. “If there’s a break anywhere in that line from here to Columbus, we’re down.”
Hale said the service is connected to a “point of presence” and if anything happens between that point and Harlan the connection is broken.
Internet service was restored Wednesday evening.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510 or email@example.com.